Len Lieberman's article on Intelligent Design
- I've pasted below Len Lieberman's article on Intelligent Design from
Teaching Anthropology: SACC Notes, Vol. 11, No. 2, spring 2005.
DESIGN: UNINTELLIGENT, NOT VERY INTELLIGENT, OR JUST PLAIN DUMB?
Leonard Lieberman, Professor Emeritus
Central Michigan University
Intelligent design does not provide an intelligent
explanation of the origins of patterns in nature or of changes over
time. Patterning in nature is best explained by mutations and
natural selection under the complex and often varying conditions of
life, as Darwin stated. When these conditions change a natural
pattern may become extinct or undergo further evolution.
Unfortunately, the simplistic sophistry of intelligent design (ID) is
likely to appeal to the 55 percent of Americans polled, who believe
that human beings were created by God, and it will also appeal to the
27 percent who support evolution from lesser forms of life with God
guiding the process, but it is not likely to win support from the 13
percent who support evolution in which God did not directly guide the
process (CBS News/New York Times poll, Nov. 18-21, 2004). Creators
of the ID scenario include William Dembski, Michael Behe, and Phillip
Johnson. Their ideas are thoroughly and critically examined by Mark
Perakh in Unintelligent Design (Prometheus, 2004). A more direct
approach is provided by questioning the tunnel vision of these
intelligent designers. If design is so intelligent, then why did the
Irish �elk� (a deer) have antlers spanning up to 12 feet, and why
were they shed each year, and why did these deer become extinct
11,000 years ago? Why the extravagant tail of the peacock? Why each
year are there new disease vectors for influenza? Why have 99
percent of the species that once existed now become extinct? Where
have all the dinosaurs gone? Why are there no surviving
Australopithecines? Why do we humans live so long that we
increasingly die of cancer or heart failure? In the New York Times
Magazine (2005: 5-16), Jim Holt asks some of these questions, and
others. Such as why do less than one-third of human fertilizations
culminate in live births? And if, as some Christians argue, life
begins at conception, why are there so many un-baptized lives in
�limbo for all eternity,� or has a special heavenly habitat been
designed for them? For those who want a more detailed biological
question, Holt asks why the laryngeal nerve does not traverse
directly from the cranium to the larynx, but in fact travels down to
the chest, loops around a ligament of the lung and then back up the
neck to the larynx? In a giraffe that nerve is 20 feet long, but
could have been designed for a one-foot connection.
The designers of ID do not stress that since there is
intelligent design there must be a designer, a supreme being, a God.
If that religious belief were made explicit, then there could be
rejection by the judiciary and little chance of including ID in
public school curricula.
One of the older arguments for including religion in the
science classroom is the fairness factor which asserts that both
Darwin and creationism should be presented because it is only fair to
present both sides. Fairness to both sides assumes that there are
only two sides. But in a multicultural, pluralistic world there are
many religious approaches to creation. Christian denominations have
several different approaches. Which of these should be presented?
If, as fairness would dictate, several are presented from
Christianity, and also from Judaism, Mohammadism, Buddhism,
Shintoism, Animism, then the time for science would be very limited.
Is that fair to students in a science based course in the context of
a scientific-technology driven society?
An example of the diversity of approaches to evolution
within Christianity and Judaism is provided in Strategies in Teaching
Anthropology (Patricia C. Rice and David W. MacCurdy, Eds., 3rd
edition, 2004, see �Does �Fairness� Require Teaching Scientific
Creationism?�, Leonard Lieberman and Rodney C. Kirk, pp. 60-66). It
is useful to present these views and ask students who said them as
1. �Man learns from two books:
the universe for the human study of things created by God, and the
Bible, for the study of God�s superior will and truth. One belongs
to reason, and the other to faith. Between them there is no
clash� (Pope Pius XII, Address to Pontifical Academy of Science, 1939).
Encyclopedia. . .cites. . .theologian George Forell�s interpretation
of �the doctrine of creation as expressing a theory not about the
origin of the world� but
as describing man�s situation in the world.� (The Lutheran Church,
3. The following organization
urges its constituent units �to join with others to have creation-
science legislation declared unconstitutional when it is in violation
of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S.
Constitution� (United Presbyterian Church).
4. The following philosophical/
religious unit affirmed �the glorious ability of God to create in any
manner, whether men understand it or not, and in this affirmation
reject the limited insight and rigid dogmatism of the �creationist
movement. . .�� (Episcopal).
5. �We testify to our belief that
the historic Christian doctrine of the Creator God does not depend on
any particular account of the origins of life for its truth and
validity. . . .The assumption that the Bible contains scientific data
about origins, misreads a literature which emerged in pre-scientific
age� (United Church Board of Homeland Ministries).
6. Resolved to �uphold religious
neutrality in public education. . .and oppose efforts to compromise
the integrity of public school teaching by the introduction of
sectarian religious doctrines such as �scientific
creationism�. . .� (Unitarian-Universalist).
7. �Whereas, �scientific�
creationism seeks covertly to promote a particular religious
dogma,. . .be it resolved that the. . .Conference opposes efforts to
�Scientific� creationism into the science curriculum of the public
schools� (United Methodist Church).
8. �[T]he principles and concepts
of biological evolution are basic to understanding
science. . .students who are not taught these principles or who hear
�creationism� presented as a scientific alternative, will not be
receiving an education based on modern scientific
knowledge. . .ignorance about evolution will seriously undermine
their understanding of the world and the natural laws governing it,
and their introduction to other explanations described as
�scientific� will give them false ideas about scientific methods and
criteria� (Central Conference of American Rabbis).
(Items 2-8 are in M. Matsumara, Voices for Evolution,
rev. ed. 1995, National Center for Science Education.)
Fairness requires attention to other religions besides
those derived from Judeo-Christianity, cannot fairly or adequately be
done in the science classroom. There is an appropriate place for
teaching about religious belief systems in public school in classes
such as History of Religions, Comparative Religions, World Religions,
and Anthropology of Religious Systems. There is an appropriate place
for teaching evolutionary principles and evidence in public school
classes on anthropology and evolution, biology, chemistry, physics,
and astronomy. Finally, there is patterning in evolution, and it is
due to random variation in alleles and how they relate to nature�s
selection through differential survival in the complex and often
varying conditions of life.
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